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Pharmacy at the Push of a Button: FCHC’s Story

How technology from Polar helps First Care Health Center keep patients healthy and staff safe

Local pharmacies play a vital role in promoting the health of their communities: dispensing medication, providing health and wellness advice, and guiding patients through dosages and potential side effects. 

In Park River, North Dakota, First Care Health Center is utilizing cutting-edge pharmacy technology provided by Polar to better care for their patients and staff.

Patient-Centered Care

Park River is situated in rural North Dakota, one hour from Grand Forks and at least two from other larger cities like Fargo, Jamestown, and Bismarck. The city is home to 1,400 people who rely on one 14-bed critical access hospital for their healthcare needs, including acute, outpatient, and inpatient pharmacy services.

At the core of First Care Health Center’s mission is a philosophy called Patient-Centered Care, which CEO and Administrator Marcus Lewis defines as healthcare that extends beyond the hospital’s doors.

“The patient and their entire holistic approach is what is important,” Marcus said. “Their care from the time that they come in, to any self-care or any ancillary services that we collaborate with other organizations on, to ultimately keep that patient the healthiest they can be. We deliver healthcare, not sick care.”

[AUDIO POP-UP: What is Patient-Centered Care?] 

One way that First Care has lived out its promise of providing Patient-Centered Care is by expanding its pharmacy services. In 2017, First Care hired Brittany Jallo as its first full-time Director of Pharmacy.

“First Care had been operating with a pharmacy nurse coordinator and a consultant pharmacist, and they did a fantastic job. But pharmacy is changing and the regulations are getting tighter and tighter,” Brittany said. “There are things where you really do need a pharmacist there.”

One such regulation, implemented in December 2019, is called USP <800>. This regulation aims to protect pharmacy staff and patients by setting standards for handling hazardous drugs, from chemotherapy to blood thinners. These drugs save lives, but if handled improperly, they can also pose serious health risks to both those consuming them and those transporting, mixing, and delivering them.

“Healthcare workers deal with hazardous medications all of the time,” Brittany said. “The dosages are very specific, you really want to make sure it’s been verified before it goes into the bag. They could really hurt somebody if you have something wrong.”

Pharmacy is changing, especially in rural hospitals, and the regulations are getting tighter and tighter

Pharmacy at the Push of a Button

First Care knew that meeting regulations like USP <800> would require serious, and potentially costly, changes to their pharmacy operations. They trusted Polar, their broadband and phone service provider, to find a solution that would save the pharmacy time and money while keeping staff and patients safe. 

Polar worked with Brittany and her team at First Care to develop a system that would allow Brittany to oversee the filling of hazardous medications without needing to take time away from patients to garb up and enter the clean room. Together, they came to a solution that allows the pharmacy technician to push a doorbell button from the clean room that will ring in the pharmacy, where Brittany can answer it. 

The technician can then show Brittany the vial, the bag that it is going in, and how much she has drawn up. Brittany can verify that amount and give the technician the go-ahead to fill the medication. 

“This technology from Polar allows us as a pharmacy department to do our jobs more efficiently, which in turn allows us to provide better patient care,” Brittany said. “When they came up with this I could have hugged them, I was so happy.”

And the impact of this technology goes beyond the pharmacy.

“Polar Communications has been instrumental in helping us design a system that is good for not only the patient, but also for the staff,” Marcus said. “By using this technology, we are able to reduce the risk and minimize the possibility of something going wrong. And that’s really what healthcare is about is minimizing the risk and doing no harm.”

Watch First Care Health Center’s Story

This technology from Polar allows us as a pharmacy department to do our jobs more efficiently.

Here For You, 24/7

First Care Health Center is a pillar of the Park River community, ensuring that rural residents have access to the health services and medications that they need. At Polar, it’s our responsibility to ensure that the technology First Care relies on to provide those services is working smoothly.

“Whenever we have a question, Polar comes back very quickly and whether or not they know the answer, they’re ready to work on the problem,” Marcus said. “The technicians come out quickly, and to have that kind of service locally is vital for a hospital. We are working 24/7, 365 days a year and Polar Communications is there for us.”

Polar provides broadband, phone, security systems and so much more. Contact us today to discover how Polar can develop custom solutions that work for your business!

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